Foreign-born Islamic terrorists have used almost every conceivable means of entering the United States, according to a study released today, which concludes every aspect of the immigration system has been penetrated and, therefore, needs reform.
Contrary to the recent uproar over INS slip-ups with temporary visas, which was prompted by the fact that the Sept. 11 hijackers entered the country on temporary visas, more militant Islamic terrorists in the U.S. since 1993 have been naturalized citizens and legal permanent residents, reports The Center for Immigration Studies, a nonprofit, non-partisan research organization.
The CIS study focused on 48 foreign-born Islamic militants charged, convicted or admitting in open court to terrorism.
The 48 have played key roles in such terrorist plots as the bombing of New York City landmarks, the Millennium plot to bomb Los Angeles International Airport, the murder of CIA employees outside of headquarters, the first attack on the World Trade Center and the Sept. 11 attacks. Almost all are now thought to be linked in some way to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida organization. Of the 48, 17 were lawful permanent residents or naturalized U.S. citizens at the time they committed their crime,
while 16 were on temporary visas, 12 were illegal aliens and three had asylum
According to the study, militant Islamic terrorists have come into the U.S. as students, tourists and business visitors. They have sneaked across the border illegally, arrived as stowaways on ships, used false passports, and have been granted amnesty and citizenship. Terrorists have even used America’s humanitarian tradition of welcoming those seeking asylum.
“Every aspect of our immigration system – from the way visas are processed overseas, the handling of foreign citizens at ports of entry, policing the nation’s borders – has to be reformed in order to reduce the terrorist threat,” study author Steven Camarota told WorldNetDaily. “And we need much more vigorous law enforcement in this country,” he adds pointing out that most of the 48 had committed violations of the law prior to their crimes.
The open door
Among the study findings:
Detention space: A lack of detention space has allowed several terrorists who had no legal right to be here, to be released into the country, including Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
Past amnesties: Past amnesties for illegal aliens have not hindered, and have even facilitated, terrorism. For example, Mahmud Abouhalima, a leader of the 1993 Trade Center bombing, was legalized as a seasonal agricultural worker as part of the 1986 amnesty. Only after he was legalized was he able to travel outside of the country, including several trips
to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, where he received the terrorist training he used in the bombing.
Visas: The vast majority of terrorists in the study (42 of 48) were approved for visas by an
American consulate overseas prior to entering the country. At least two terrorists, Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and Ali Mohammed, should have been denied visas because they were on the watch list of suspected terrorists. Several terrorists should probably have been denied temporary visas because they had characteristics that made it likely they would overstay their visa and try to live in the United States illegally. Under Section 214(b) of immigration law, individuals who are young, unmarried, have little income, or otherwise lack strong attachment to a residence overseas are to be denied temporary visas. Several of the Sept. 11 hijackers, including the plot’s leader Mohamed Atta, fit these criteria.
Citizenship: Ali Mohammed, who wrote al-Qaida’s terrorist handbook on how to operate in the West, is a naturalized U.S. citizen.
Asylum: In addition to the three terrorists who had asylum claims pending when they committed their crimes, three other terrorists, such as Gazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer, who tried to bomb the Brooklyn borough subway in 1997, used a false asylum claim to prevent deportation prior to taking part in terrorism.
Immigration violations: In addition to the 12 who were illegal aliens when they committed their crimes, at least five others had lived in the country illegally at some point prior to taking part in terrorism. For those that were illegal aliens, most entered legally on temporary visas and then overstayed. However, some sneaked across the northern border,
such as Abdel Hakim Tizegha, who was involved in the Millennium plot. Some terrorists have engaged in fraudulent
marriages to American citizens, such as Fadil Abdelgani, who took part in the plot to bomb New York City landmarks, and
Khalid Abu al Dahab, who raised money and helped recruit new members for al-Qaida from within the United States. Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, who inspired several terrorist plots, provided false information on his application for permanent residence. Still other terrorists worked illegally in the United States. At least eight terrorists held jobs for extended periods while living in the country illegally before taking part in terrorism, including those involved in the 1993 Trade Center attack, the plot to bomb New York landmarks and the Millennium plot.
“The system is only as strong as its weakest link. It’s like leaving a car locked with the keys in it,” said Camarota
stressing the need for broad-ranging reform.
In view of its findings, the study offers 17 policy recommendations which include:
Identify those who violate immigration laws and force them to leave the country;
Create an entry-exit system that would automatically record the entry and exit of all persons to and from the U.S.
(those who overstay visa time limits should be barred from ever entering the country again);
Expand the current system in place to track temporary visa holders to include those affiliated with American
institutions such as guestworkers, intracompany transferees and cultural exchange visitors;
Enforce the ban on hiring illegal aliens by punishing employers and forcing those found working illegally to leave the
Improve investigation, crack down on fraudulent marriages and other deceptions;
Expand available detention space by building more INS facilities and contracting out to jails and prison systems that have excess capacity;
Dramatically increase resources devoted to the enforcement of laws beyond the 2,000 INS agents devoted to
worksite enforcement, anti-smuggling operations, and investigating fraud and document forgery;
Increase control over the Mexico border;
Tighten enforcement of Section 214(b) of the immigration law to prevent terrorists from getting temporary visas; and
Update the “watch list” and check it against all persons entering the country at a port of entry.
Closing the door
The study concludes such broad-ranging reform can not be accomplished unless the overall level of immigration is
reduced: “Issuing fewer permanent and temporary visas would mean greater resources could be devoted to more extensive background checks on each applicant … fewer foreign-born individuals to keep track of within the United States in the future … and reduction would give the State Department and the INS the breathing space they need to deal with their enormous processing backlogs …”
“The current immigration system is overwhelmed,” Camarota told WND. According to CIS, the General Accounting
Office reported in May 2001 that the receipt of new INS applications (for green cards, citizenship, temporary work
permits, etc.) has increased 50 percent over the past six years and that the backlog of unresolved applications has
quadrupled to nearly four million. The crush of work, CIS maintains, has created an organizational culture wherein “staff are rewarded for the timely handling of petitions rather than for careful scrutiny of their merits,” in the words of a January 2002 GAO report. The pressure to move things through the system has led to “rampant” and “pervasive” fraud, with one official estimating that 20 to 30 percent of all applications involve fraud.
The Las Vegas Sun reported yesterday a former employee of a U.S. consulate in Saudi Arabia where most of the Sept. 11 hijackers got their visas admitted he took money and gifts to provide fraudulent visas to foreigners. Abdulla Noman improperly issued 50 to 100 visas from September 1996 until last November,
when he was arrested in Las Vegas while accompanying a trade delegation from the Mideast. Noman, 54, a Yemeni citizen,
said he got bribes worth thousands of dollars for making it appear foreigners were legitimate members of trade delegations to the United States.
“They would come in with everybody else and then disappear,” the Sun quotes Assistant U.S. Attorney Lee Vilker as saying.
INS Western Region Spokesman Ron Rogers said he could not comment on the CIS study without seeing it. When
asked his response to the call for reduced immigration, Rogers replied, “Granted, if we had less work we could focus more resources on reform but we’re not endorsing the [study's] recommendation. We strictly follow Congress’ mandates for preference quotas.”
ProjectUSA, a nonprofit organization that advocates reducing immigration to
“sustainable levels” it defines as not adding to the overall population, agrees the CIS study shows a need for a “time-out” on immigration in order to address reform.
“Immigration will cause our population to double within the lifetime of our children,” director Craig Nelsen told WND. “Because of the massive numbers coming in, it’s important to be prudent about who we’re letting in. … Sept. 11 was a very good example of some of the things that can happen.”
Census Bureau figures show there are 28.4 million immigrants living in the U.S., according to 2000 statistics. That’s the largest number of immigrants in U.S. history, and those figures represent a 43 percent increase over 1990 figures.
Immigrants now account for 10.4 percent of all residents – the highest percentage in 70 years.
“How did they make the leap, to go from saying some of the Islamic terrorists were legal permanent residents and
therefore all immigration needs to stop?” questions Daniel Griswold, associate director of the Center for Trade Policy Studies at the Cato Institute.
“The restrictionists remain obsessed with 3 percent of the foreigners who enter the U.S. and stay, ignoring the fact
that 97 percent enter temporarily and leave within a few weeks or months,” Griswold told WND. “Thirty million foreign-born persons enter the U.S. on temporary visas each year and the vast majority of them leave after a few days, weeks or months. A million foreigners enter each year to immigrate, that is, to resettle here permanently.”
Griswold sees the call to cut immigration as an opportunistic attempt by anti-immigration groups to tie their issue to the national security bandwagon.
“America’s border-control system requires a reorientation of mission. U.S. immigration policy up until now has been
obsessed with nabbing mostly Mexican-born workers whose only ‘crime’ is their desire to work, save, and build a better life for their families. Those workers pose no threat to national security. Instead of expending scarce resources to hunt down construction workers and raid restaurants, our border control efforts should focus on tracking potential terrorists and smashing their cells before they can blow up more buildings and kill more Americans,” Griswold maintains.
Prospects for reform
“We need smart border policy that goes directly to the problem, as opposed to taking a meat axe to general immigration,” said Griswold, who hails the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act recently passed by Congress. “It tightened the rules for everyone coming into the U.S. but it said nothing about rolling back immigration. There’s a component of the bill that bars certain types of visas from countries known for sponsoring terrorism. One implication from the CIS study is that we need to raise the threshold higher for certain countries.”
Some see the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act as a double-edged sword.
href="/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=26788">As WorldNetDaily reported, the chairman of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., opposed an amnesty proposal attached to the border-security bill. The proposal extends Section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, “which permits illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S. without receiving a State Department background check from their home country,” Tancredo said in a statement. It also allows illegal immigrants to receive legal permanent residency or a valid green card, by filing a declaration with the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
“We are a country founded on the rule of law. We must choose laws that protect our people and maintain a civil society,” said Tancredo. “It’s clearly an open invitation to break the law.”
Tancredo also introduced a measure last fall that seeks a moratorium on mass immigration while “we fix our broken
On its website, ProjectUSA quotes Samuel Gompers, founder and president of the American Federation of Labor and an immigrant as writing in a letter to Congress dated March 19, 1924:
“Every effort to enact immigration legislation must expect to meet a number of hostile forces and, in
particular, two hostile forces of considerable strength. One of these is (greed) composed of corporation employers who desire to employ physical strength (broad backs) at the lowest possible wage and who prefer a rapidly revolving labor supply at low wages to a regular supply of American wage earners at fair wages. The other is (ethnic identity politics) composed of racial groups in the United States who oppose all restrictive legislation because they want the doors left open for an influx of their countrymen regardless of the menace to the people of their adopted country.”
On the Fox News Channel’s “The O’Reilly Factor” yesterday, Tancredo lamented the
same barriers still exist, “No one [on Capitol Hill] wants to touch the immigration issue. On the Democratic side, mass immigrants mean massive votes. And Republicans don’t want to lose cheap labor.”
“I don’t like to be negative,” Camarota said, “but it’s going to take another attack to get our attention and move discourse along.”
Griswold warns, “We should post a yield sign on the Statue of Liberty, but never a stop sign.”